The framers of the Constitution took note of the fact that certain communities in the country were suffering from extreme social, educational and economic backwardness on account of the primitive agricultural practices, lack of infrastructure facilities and geographical isolation. The Constitution of India in Article 366 (25) prescribe that the Scheduled Tribes means such tribes or tribal communities as are deemed under Article 342 of the Constitution to be Scheduled Tribes.
The provisions under Article 342 read as follows:
342(1) Scheduled Tribes --- the President may with respect to any State or Union Territory, and where it is a State, after consultation with the Governor thereof, by a public notification, specify the tribes or tribal communities or part of or groups within tribes or tribal communities as Scheduled Tribe in relation to that State or Union Territory as the case may be.
(2) Parliament may be law include in or exclude from the list of Scheduled Tribes specified in a notification issued under clause (1) any tribe or tribal community or part of or group within any tribe or tribal community, but save as aforesaid a notification issued under the said clause shall not be varied by any subsequent notification.
Criteria for specification of a community as a Scheduled Tribe
While the Constitution is silent about the criteria for specification of a community as a Scheduled Tribe. The words and the phrase 'tribes or tribal communities or part of or groups within tribes or tribal communities" in Article 342 have to be understood in terms of their historical background of backwardness. Primitiveness, geographical isolation, shyness and social, educational & economic backwardness due to these reasons are the traits that distinguish Scheduled Tribe communities of our country from other communities. It takes into account the definitions of tribal Communities adopted in the 1931 Census. These facts are the basis for the provision in Article 342(1) which mandates to specify the tribes or tribal communities or part of or groups within tribes or tribal communities as Scheduled Tribe in relation to that State or Union Territory as the case may be. Thus the list of Scheduled Tribes is State/UT specific and a community declared as a Scheduled Tribe in a State need not be so in another State. The Presidential notifications under Clause 1 of Article 342 of the Constitution are issued as the Constitution Orders. Two Constitution Orders were initially issued in relation to two distinct categories of States as existed at the time of adoption of the Constitution of India. These are: